Last Mimzy, The (United States, 2007)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

New Line honcho Bob Shaye has been in the news a lot recently, primarily because of an increasingly acrimonious feud with Peter Jackson over profits from The Lord of the Rings. With The Last Mimzy, Shaye steps back into the director's chair for the first time in over a decade-and-a-half, adapting Lewis Pagett's 1943 short story into a family film. The movie's poor focus and scattershot approach, while not without its charms, represents the kind of product that may divert children but will likely puzzle adults with its inconsistency.

What is The Last Mimzy about? Is it a cautionary tale about an impending ecological disaster? An attack on governmental intrusion into the lives of ordinary citizens? A superhero tale? A primer on New Age spiritualism? The 2007 answer to E.T.? It wants to be all these things and more, but there's a difference between doing something and doing something well. The Last Mimzy rushes so quickly from one plot element to the next that it loses things like character development and atmosphere along the way. The Last Mimzy feels rushed and incomplete, and the tidy ending doesn't help. Every time the movie pulls us under its adventurous spell, it changes gears and we have to get acclimatized again.

The basic story concerns two Seattle grade-schoolers, ten-year old Noah (Chris O'Neil) and his younger sister, Emma (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn). While on vacation, they discover a mysterious black box on the beach. It contains various otherworldly items, including an ordinary-looking stuffed rabbit named Mimzy that speaks telepathically to Emma. The kids hide these items in their room but the longer they remain in their position, the smarter Noah and Emma become. She is able to levitate and he shows quantum leaps in science class. Even though the kids' parents (Timothy Hutton and Joely Richardson) are largely ignorant of the changes in their offspring, Noah's science teacher, Larry White (Rainn Wilson), is not. He and his hippy girlfriend, Naomi (Kathryn Hahn), visit Mrs. Wilder at home to tell her she has two very special children. Meanwhile, a Homeland Security official (Michael Clarke Duncan) is narrowing in on Emma and Noah as the cause of a major blackout. And Mimzy begins to lose her effectiveness because she needs to be sent back to the dying future from whence she came.

The Last Mimzy moves far too fast to become boring, but it frustrates with the possibilities it leaves untapped. Part of the movie's mid-section explores the superhuman abilities of the children, but this is lost in the rush to the finish line. An attempt is made to present Michael Clarke Duncan's character as more than a gung-ho military type, but he doesn't get enough screen time. The film's last act doesn't try to hide its similarities to E.T. and the movie throws in a little Zathura along the way. The film has a pro-ecological message but it is shoehorned into the opening and closing futuristic bookend sequences.

The acting by the children, especially Rhiannon Leigh Wryn, is effective. This is Wryn's first major role and it represents the first credit of any sort for her co-star, Chris O'Neil. Since The Last Mimzy focuses on the young protagonists, it's necessary for them to be credible, and they are. They are cute without being annoying and their dialogue delivery is unforced. None of the adults, however, can be said to impress. Rainn Wilson and Kathryn Hahn have their moments, but both seem over-earnest. Timothy Hutton and Joely Richardson are rather boring and it feels like 75% of Michael Clarke Duncan's part wound up on the cutting room floor. Toward the end of the movie, I was trying to figure out why he was in it.

As family friendly adventures go, The Last Mimzy is a cut below the recent Bridge to Terabithia, with which it shares the same target demographic. The science fiction and fantasy elements give The Last Mimzy a nice sheen and the low-key special effects are effective. This is, however, likely to impress children more than adults. Kids will appreciate the fast pace and won't be bothered by some of the story's lapses and the clumsy changes in pace and direction. For adults, while The Last Mimzy is not unpleasant, it lacks the polish and substance to be anything more than an opportunity to attend a movie with one's family. The film does a lot of things but it never fully satisfies.

Last Mimzy, The (United States, 2007)

Run Time: 1:30
U.S. Release Date: 2007-03-23
MPAA Rating: "PG" (Nothing Objectionable)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1